Clint Mansell – High Rise – Review

Clint Mansell’s career as a film composer has been a fascinating one to follow. Having started out as front man for the 80s/90s band Pop Will Eat Itself, Mansell decided to move to America whereupon he met Darren Aronofsky and formed a director/composer relationship as indelible as Burton and Elfman or Abrams and Giacchino.

But it’s Mansell’s modest, humble, even self-deprecating nature that sets him apart from all his industry counterparts. From day one of his composing career he has been the first to admit that his technical knowledge (in a classical training sense) isn’t enormous. He has even gone on record to say that his musicianship isn’t astounding, and that if it hadn’t been for advances in computer recording, he may not have had a career in the first place.

To hear something like that from a composer who, seemingly effortlessly, perfectly captures the mood, tone and spirit of the movies he has scored, is encouraging for each and every one of us schlubs who holds a dream to one day reach the top. Mansell feels like one of us; a regular guy with talent who made it to the top and bloody well deserved to. And so to listen to the chronology of his work and see his abilities, knowledge and grasp of the form grow is quite frankly a joyous thing to behold.

The point of the above enamoured ramble is to bring us to High Rise, and what I feel is Mansell’s most accomplished work yet. It is the sound of a composer reaching the great heights at which they become something truly iconic. Not to say that Mansell’s previous work hasn’t been critically revered and universally enjoyed (you only have to look back to his Lux Aeterna cue to find a piece of music that has been used in countless trailers around the world), but for me High Rise places Mansell in the pantheon of the masters.

Right from the opening track, Critical Mass, there is something of the otherworldly about the work. It carries a pomp that put me in mind of Elmer Bernstein’s Magnificent Seven theme, such is its flamboyant yet determined rhythm. Then moving into Silent Corridors, there is suddenly a brooding counterpoint with a creeping devilishness, which called to mind another Bernstein score; that of To Kill A Mockingbird, when Jem and Scout were scoping out Boo Radley’s house and suddenly the saccharine sweet neighbourhood felt clouded by nightmares. That’s what Mansell brings here, with a truly goosebump-inducing whistling melody that claws at the hairs on your neck and pulls them to attention.

Though I’ve mentioned Elmer Bernstein as a comparison point, there is also a Bernard Herrmann feel to the whole score, with disconcerting string movements and pulsating moments of pure horror that would have felt at home in any of the great Hitchcock thrillers.

Standout tracks include the luscious and lavish The World Beyond The High Rise, the skin-crawling The Circle of Women and the pulse pounding Danger in the Streets of the Sky.

If I were to sum up the entire soundtrack it would be to say that it makes you feel trapped in a dolls house. Having seen High Rise I guess that’s pretty much the point. Like a dolls house everything has its place and everything has a facade of happiness, but the terror lies in the secrets hidden behind closed doors, when suddenly, in the right light or given the wrong circumstances, everything crumbles into the scary, the miserable, the downright bizarre.

If you’d like to own your own copy of the High Rise score (which we highly recommend you should) then click HERE.

James is a movie obsessive with a particular love for scores and screenplays. He has written for numerous blogs, sites and cinemas and has been involved in several screenwriting projects. He can usually be found in front of a large plasma screen devouring Westerns, 80s pulp, Jimmy Stewart movies or anything by the Coens.